What Companies Can Learn From 'Game of Thrones' When Hiring Their Next Chief Information Officer

As a business grows, the hiring of a chief information officer (CIO) can be hugely important. They have full control over company’s technology, which now touches every area of a business. Whether they’re risk-averse or spendthrift, how a CIO handles their everyday challenges can determine the overall success of the IT department and the company as a whole.

While you don’t need to travel to Westeros to find the right person, there are many helpful lessons to learn from Game of Thrones (GOT) when identifying the ideal type of CIO that fits your organization's needs. As many GOT fanatics already know, each Great House in the show has a unique culture and their leaders have distinct philosophies of governing, much like C-level executives. There is much that hiring managers can learn from the Great Houses when assessing the appropriate approach corporate IT, and this will affect which CIO is right for the organization.

Now that season four has ended (no spoilers here), we can still use the Great Houses as a reference, when analyzing he approaches that CIOs tend to take for IT.

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The risk-averse IT (House of Stark)

The bootstrap IT (House Greyjoy)

The Ivory Tower IT (House Arryn)

House Arryn has the reputation of being a prideful clan due to their heritage. Like the Arryns, Ivory Tower CIOs can be found hiding out somewhere far away from the C-suite. They are very involved in what they do and are completely disinterested in the other inner workings of the company. CIOs who think and act this way are cutting themselves out of important conversations and will rarely be in the loop. Just like House Arryn, CIOs who act this way will eventually find themselves losing their seat at the decision-making table.

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Slash and burn IT (House Targaryen)

Compliant IT (House Tully)

Spendthrift IT (House Lannister)

As the richest house in Westeros, the Lannisters “always pay their debts.” They can afford to, as they literally sit on top of a gold mine. They have been known to buy friends from among their enemies and fund armies of mercenaries with Lannister gold. Similarly, Lannister CIOs will choose to spend their way out of their problems and would never hesitate to outsource. The only problem for a Lannister CIO – and the Lannisters – is what happens when the money runs out?

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Adaptable IT (House Tyrell)

Control freak IT (House Baratheon)

Power-hungry House Baratheon is more focused on getting the crown and less on brotherly love. Each brother -- Stannis and Renly -- wanted control and would not yield to anyone else, not even to each other. Control freak CIOs are unwilling to make any change they deem unnecessary and can be bullies in their management tactics. Baratheon CIOs will get the job done but perhaps at the expense of the feelings of those around them.

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Independent IT (House Martell)

House Martell was the only house to successfully fend off the Targaryen forces, and they did so through guerilla warfare. This house is culturally, ethnically and politically distinct from the rest of the kingdoms. Martells are one of a kind and are rarely swayed into changing their beliefs or values. These kinds of CIOs know how to keep their budgets aligned and intact. In addition, they know how to keep the line of business from encroaching on what has traditionally been IT’s domain.

As most companies are finding out, IT is a high-stakes game (although the likelihood of actually dying while playing in the real world is quite low). Which kind of CIO is best for your company?

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